Listening to nature's echoed words and beholding its posture, we perceive the language of dichotomy. The contrast permeates every aspect of nature. But it creates wholeness in our surroundings. The awareness of this most beautiful secret helps us to know about ourselves.
I see the mountains standing tall and visible to all, while the valley below is hidden. But these two have lived with each other since the beginning of time. One without the other is incapable of carrying the beauty of perfection. The extrovert and introvert have become one.
I see the love story between the sun and the moon; one a blazing orb, the giver of light, the other a quiet taker shedding its humble light at night. The moon wants to be adored only, but the sun stirs life as soon as it appears in the midst of the gathering in nature. The extrovert and introvert have an everlasting relationship.
I hear the soil’s lamentation on the invading roots. The tree’s outreaching branches to every direction demands mingling with the most humble and shy giver of all, mother earth. The extrovert and introvert together provide for all.
As an introvert who was encouraged constantly to be an extrovert, I remember how I used to plea with my parents to leave me out of their social life. They wanted to take their firstborn to every function they would participate in, trying to do what they were supposed to do, to bring up a balanced kid. But here is the peculiar part. They would encourage me at the same time to meditate and value my solitude.
I do not know if their effort paid off or not. What I am sure of is that I have not changed much. I love my solitude. Then what are these social activities which I have in my house every week? One for meaningful conversation. One for progress in our intellectual and spiritual life. Another one is to bring a sense of worship and gratitude to our daily lives. Thus, many of us may claim that we are both introverts and extroverts and, at times, only one.
Regardless of what kind of personality we have and to what category we seem to belong, we all have two aspects in life. One side of us must seek time to attend to our soul, make time to hear the language of our spirit. To connect with the Divine and to bring spiritual forces home; to our hearts. This solitude is indeed more fruitful than any socializing. We may look at it as the foundation of human life. Without it, we might find a void in our life. This universal tone, this ageless need for the human soul, exists in every culture and civilization.
And the other side of us must find a human connection. Celebrating life has to merge with honoring the lives of others. We might say this second aspect reflects reciprocity, the act of receiving and contributing. Even the most extroverted people have to find time to meditate and reflect on the meaning of life. I live with one of them, my husband, whose extroversion equals itself with his introversion.
Then, words such as ambivert, meaning being someone whose overall behavior is between introversion and extroversion, come to mind. The finale becomes the different shades of individuality that form the makeup of a colorful garden of humanity.
Meanwhile, immersed in figuring what kind of personality we have or should have or could have had, it comes to the intrusion of the coronavirus in our lives. That uninvited virus crosses the oceans and, without a visa, enters our land and homes, roaming and residing rent-free in the temple of our being. With it comes counting the dead. Heart broke and saddened, we all witness scenes which we never have eye-witnessed before. By living, we become the writers of a new chapter in the history of humankind. We live and grieve by losing lives, watch the dark dust of death passe us.
Isolation and staying home become a new norm, and thus, God smiles on some. Those introverts, basking in the legitimacy of isolation, rejuvenate. Their lack of sociability goes underground. After all, it is the law of the land that enforces introversion. Even eye contact manifests itself as extroversion
a paradise for some.
But how about the extroverts? Their sufferings during the locked-down time entail pain, disappointment, and not knowing what to do with their time at hand. An opportune moment for the introverts for once to shine through, to provide advice to the opponents. Advice on how to spend the day and how to cope with loneliness. The collective discourse evolves on the benefits of solitude, walking, and reflection on life when you are by yourself! The ancient craft of attention to the inner life. This alien-like suggestion baffles many extroverts at first. But with passing time, most of us search for our inner self. We learn to absorb the morning breeze. Silence does not bring discomfort anymore. Essential questions in life become prominent, and the journey within begins. We walk in nature and isolation. Thus, we observe the existence of the vibrant life outside ourselves. We develop faculty to hear nature's song, the most euphonious melody vouchsafed to all.
On one of the days of the mandatory stay-home, I received a call from a dear friend who is quintessential of an extrovert. 'There are certainly fewer distractions these days,' I hear my friend says on the phone. She has a busy life. She is always in the state of doing. Her mode of operation is not a daily calendar but an hourly one instead. Never seem to have time for pausing. What I mean is she never reflects. Life is all about traveling, visiting places, and participating in events. That is it. Her life is eventful.
Our pre-pandemic coffee shop visits were always a rest from her busy schedule and an event for me. With that difference between us, we still enjoy each other's company. So when during the social isolation, on the phone, she says there are fewer distractions in life these days, I am not sure if this is a positive statement or a negative one. And I wonder how does she live her life with being less busy?
Admittedly, she is a storyteller. Her visits and calls entail a long conversation, on her side, of course. She allows me to express my thought by saying yes or no. And that is the limit of my participatory role in our conversation. That is good enough for me. Her stories are colorful. One is about her eventful trip by train, only to take a photograph of that river in the heart of that mountain. The other one is, on traveling miles to taste the creation of such and such a chef, or better yet, going out of her way to attend a concert in London only to realize she has arrived two days late. Then it comes with her accidental invitation to visit the Palace, the Queen, and the late Prince Phillips. She has stories to tell, amazing and amusing at the same time.
"What am I going to do? They have canceled everything. It is as if they canceled my life," she continues. Her voice sounds lonely. She has confronted unoccupied time for the first time in her life. Her calendar shows the days of the week with no events imposed on them. This new norm is strange to her. Maybe even scary. 'What does it mean?' She says. 'How can anybody live like this? When this thing goes away?' These questions pollute her sentences. Her disquiet mind analyzes the pain of separation in her life; disconnection from the events, to be precise.
“What are you doing these days?” Is she addressing me? Is she giving me a chance to talk? She says: 'I want to know how do you deal with this ordeal?’
How could she be interested in my boring life? So I prepare myself to answer and seize the chance to have the talking stick in hand for the first time. But it is too late as I hear her answering her own questions too.
‘Probably, reading books and writing?’ She says. Wow! What can I say? Back to muteness, I mean listening.
While she catches her breath, I venture to say that it is not a bad idea to embark on reading at this time.
Dismissively and with boredom, she says: 'You know I am not a reader.'
My repressed genius gene pops up, and I hear myself saying: Then, maybe you can write about your adventurous and eventful life. Then, I wait for another dismissive answer. But, suddenly, as if the sky has cleft asunder, I hear her saying, ‘what a divine idea? I can write my memoir!’ She is so excited about this project that she cannot stop talking about it. As if she has never heard about writing.
This writing is like a journey inside, she says. She likes journeying, all right!
Now, she is talkative about writing. ‘How should I start? What part of my life should come first? Should I write in the morning or evening?’ Questions which she answers herself without any help from me. She is back to normal self.
Living with my husband, a confirmed extrovert, and having friends in that category, has convinced me that there is an invisible bond between these two contrasts in society. It is the tale of nature manifesting itself in human relationships. As long as the extrovert and introvert reflect upon their spiritual life, they easily could connect. Therefore, the claim of opposites attracting each other might be well-grounded.